by James Bury
Using the sea fog that enveloped the coastline on Saturday as cover, Manly 16ft Skiff Club skipper Evan Darmanin discreetly moved around the rigging park taking mental notes before Saturday's spring pointscore race.
Fluid Building Services
With the harbour blanketed by the eerie mist, no-one quite knew for sure what lay beyond and therefore struggled with a decision between setting up a big rig for light winds or going for a smaller rig in anticipation of a decent breeze.
Darmanin's homework on his rivals proved inconclusive so the Chapman High Performance Sailing (CHPS) skipper gambled on a little rig and was rewarded with a narrow handicap win.
'I did the sneaky and walked up around the park and had a look at everybody's mast and what they were putting in,' Darmanin confirmed.
'It was tricky to pick the rig because you couldn't see out the bay so I just had to make a decision and stick with it.
'It was a marginal decision and we got lucky.
'It was nice to get this rig call right.'
After only just making the start off Dobroyd Head, CHPS was one of the quickest away. They rounded the top mark in seventh as the 12-17-knot nor easter kicked in and then worked hard for the rest of the race to hold off Cernunnos (Rolf Cohen) and Sarmax (Daryl Milham).
In the end only seven seconds separated first from second with third a further seven seconds behind.
For Darmanin and his crew - all in their early 20s - it was a day to remember. 'The boat was really humming and the boys did well and we nailed it,' the skipper beamed. 'It's a massive improvement from last season.
'We're the juniors of the 16s class at Manly so it took us a whole season to get used to it.
'We've now had a string of top five handicap results which is testament to how hard we're working and the improvements we've made since last year.'
Fluid Building Services (Clint Bowen) tuned up for the last two heats of the state championships with victory on scratch from Sutech (Daniel Turner) and Fire Stopping (Ben Bianco).
In the 13s, Bell Potter Securities (Declan Reilly) streeted the field to win by more than two minutes from Bigfoot Bags and Covers (John Armstrong) and Holey Dollar Rum (Annalise Gilbert).